“One part politics, one part technology, one part history”: Racial representation in the Unicode 7.0 emoji set

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Emoji are miniature pictographs that have taken over text messages, emails, and Tweets worldwide. Although contemporary emoji represent a variety of races, genders, and sexual orientations, the original emoji set came under fire for its racial homogeneity: minus two “ethnic” characters, the people emoji featured in Unicode 7.0 were represented as White. This article investigates the set of circumstances that gave rise to this state of affairs, and explores the implications for users of color whose full participation in the emoji phenomenon is constrained by their exclusion. This project reveals that the lack of racial representation within the emoji set is the result of colorblind racism as evidenced through two related factors: aversion to, and avoidance of, the politics of technical systems and a refusal to recognize that the racial homogeneity of the original emoji set was problematic in the first place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages20
JournalNew Media and Society
VolumeN/A
Early online date29 Jan 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2020

Keywords

  • colorblind racism
  • emoji
  • race and technology
  • technological neutrality

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